10 Cloud Security Best Practices 2024: Expert Advice

As more organizations migrate to the cloud, it’s critical that they do everything they can to protect their infrastructures as well as their corporate and customer data. 

Besides choosing a trustworthy web hosting provider, companies should undertake proactive measures to keep their businesses safe. 

Here, we explore the top 10 must-follow cloud security best practices and expert tips to enable companies to strengthen the security of their cloud-based systems.

Key Takeaways 

  • Implementing strong access controls and following strict encryption protocols, among other best practices, enable companies to strengthen the security of their cloud-based software solutions.
  • Following cloud security best practices help companies strengthen their security postures and mitigate risks. Not doing so will leave them vulnerable to cyberattacks.
  • To secure data in the cloud, the primary concern is to develop effective data access policies and controls. 

Cloud Security Best Practices Checklist

Top 10 Cloud Security Best Practices for Your Business in 2024

Here are 10 cloud data security best practices to help you improve your cloud security.

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1. Implement Strong Access Controls

Access control is a fundamental aspect of cloud security, and organizations should implement a combination of physical and logical access controls and multifactor authentication to restrict access to sensitive data and resources, said Taylor Dolezal, head of ecosystem at Cloud Native Computing Foundation, a vendor-neutral nonprofit organization that provides a forum for the development of cloud-native technologies.

“This helps to ensure that only authorized individuals can interact with these assets, reducing the risk of data breaches and unauthorized actions,” he said. “By adhering to the principle of least privilege, security gets enhanced by granting users access only to the resources necessary for their specific roles and responsibilities.

Srini Kadiyala, CTO of OvalEdge, a data governance consultancy, takes it one step further, saying problematic access control continues to be the top security issue with the cloud.

Cloud data security is concurrent with data governance, he said. To secure data in the cloud, the primary concern is to develop effective data access policies and controls. 

“Data must be available to everyone in an organization and cloud environments make the availability of data far easier,” Kadiyala said. “[As such], access controls must be in place that ensure only users with explicit permissions can access certain data assets.”

Hardy Desai, founder and CEO of Supple Digital, a digital marketing agency, understands the importance of strong access controls. He told Techopedia:

“As an agency with thousands of sensitive documents and data files stored in the cloud, our number one cloud security practice is ensuring tight access control and user privileges across the board. In fact, we have a small dedicated team just in charge of controlling and ensuring our document access, privileges, and cloud security are always up-to-date and accounted for. Clients come and go and so do the employees, so you must have someone in charge of keeping track of all that.”

2. Adhere to Zero-Trust Principles

Cloud security in 2024 will require close adherence to zero-trust principles, prioritizing security at the edge and taking advantage of newly available tools, such as artificial intelligence (AI) to accelerate threat detection and auditing of security systems, according to Rodman Ramezanian, global cloud threat lead at cloud security company Skyhigh Security. He said:

“Due to the rapid growth of connected networks and AI-enabled threat actors, security measures must be comprehensive and ongoing to protect data and organizational infrastructure.” 

Traditional access management solutions tend to create frustration when it comes to data protection and easy access for users, said Sundaram Lakshmanan, chief technology officer at Lookout Inc., a provider of data-centric cloud security.

“Going beyond binary access and taking an adaptive, zero-trust approach to access is a good practice that ensures that device health and user experience are considered when granting a user access to sensitive data,” he said. “Cloud security can be improved by continuously assessing risk levels to inform who gets access to data and which kind.”

A zerotrust approach serves as the best foundation for building trust between organizations and their employees as well as customers, according to Jim Alkove, co-founder and CEO of identity security provider Oleria. He told Techopedia:

Zero trust is rooted in the assumption that no user, human, or machine, is inherently trustworthy – this includes senior executives – and every access request requires strict verification and continuous validation of users, devices, applications, and networks.”

3. Perform Regular System Updates

Maintaining a secure cloud environment requires ongoing diligence and proactivity, according to Dolezal.

“Regular system updates, patch management, penetration testing, and vulnerability assessments are critical best practices that enable organizations to identify and address potential vulnerabilities before malicious actors can exploit them,” he said.

Roman Zrazhevskiy, founder and CEO of MIRA Safety, a provider of personal protective equipment, agreed.

“As a thriving retail and eCommerce brand, we heavily emphasize regular security system updates and do our best to ensure regular customer data backups,” he said.

“This may seem like a somewhat basic cloud security advice, but with the number of cloud tools, solutions, and platforms that organizations use today, it’s extremely important to run regular system updates and backups to only ensure the latest cloud security protocols are in place as well as also foster damage control in case a breach does occur,” Zrazhevskiy added.

4. Mitigate Third- and Fourth-Party Risk 

Digital supply chain security must be at the top of every company’s agenda as organizations increasingly work with third and fourth parties to drive innovation, said Nataraj Nagaratnam, IBM Fellow and CTO for Cloud Security at IBM.

Modern enterprises require a vast array of hybrid and multi-cloud environments to support data storage and applications, he said. While industry cloud platforms with built-in security and controls are already helping enterprises within regulated industries de-risk the digital supply chain, including protecting banks and the vendors they transact with, organizations will need to continue to be diligent.

Cloud security services can help reduce risk and enhance the compliance of cloud environments. He told Techopedia:

“Enterprises must take a holistic approach to their hybrid cloud cybersecurity strategies by adopting risk management solutions that can help them gain visibility into third- and fourth-party risk posture while achieving continuous compliance.”

Enterprise technology analyst David Linthicum added that it’s important for companies to vet and monitor third-party cloud service providers to ensure they meet security standards and align with the organizations’ requirements.  

“In many cases, cloud providers are selected for their ability to provide a specific function that the developers believe is needed,” he said. “This must come with the support of the core security requirements of the enterprises or it will be a point of vulnerability for attacks that can use unsecured cloud providers as the point of entry to valuable enterprise data.” 

5. Protect Your Network

Linthicum recommended to implement intrusion detection systems, firewalls, and other network security measures to guard against unauthorized access. He said:

“The network is often overlooked as an attack vector, and if not maintained correctly, it becomes a point of attack for cloud-based systems. Most clouds are used over the open internet and thus are even more vulnerable to network increases.”

Cloud web security safeguards websites, web apps, and services from online threats using cloud-based solutions. It deploys security controls at network, application, and data levels to ensure confidentiality, integrity, and availability of web resources.

6. Encrypt Your Data

Encrypting data is a crucial security measure for protecting sensitive information such as customer data, financial records, and intellectual property, said Sean Tilley, senior director of sales at 11:11 Systems, a managed infrastructure solutions provider.

“Encryption ensures that data stays secure both during its transit between internal systems and a cloud provider’s servers and while it is stored within the cloud environment,” he said.  

In a cloud environment, data may need to be shared with multiple parties, such as partners or customers, according to Tilley. He added:

“Encryption allows organizations to securely share data while maintaining control over who can access it and ensuring that it remains protected from unauthorized access during transit and at rest.”

And if there is a data breach, it’s much more difficult for attackers to exploit encrypted data. 

“Even if attackers gain access to encrypted data, they would need the encryption keys to decrypt it, significantly reducing the risk of sensitive information being exposed,” Tilley added.

7. Monitor Your Environment for Risks/Attacks in Real Time

As attacks become more sophisticated, the industry has come to realize that static solutions, such as cloud security posture management, are only the first step, according to Tomer Filiba, chief technology officer at cloud security company Sweet Security

He told Techopedia:

“They work at the configuration level, finding the holes in your perimeter, but they are blind to what’s actually running in your cloud environment. A runtime (agent-based) solution monitors the actual workload and can detect and respond to incidents as they happen, reduce the number of alarms compared to static solutions, e.g., which vulnerable libraries are actually in use, and overall provide much better investigative abilities.”

8. Create and Follow an Incident Response Plan

This means regularly testing the plan to address and mitigate cloud security incidents efficiently, according to Linthicum.

“Breaches happen often, so you need to establish an agreed-upon management plan,” he said. “If you don’t follow the plan, there will likely be additional damage. Testing is critical here. It’s not enough to just write an incident response plan, you also need to carry out simulations.”

Having a robust incident response plan in place ensures that you can quickly respond to and recover from any type of cloud data loss and leak incidents by implementing 24/7 proactive monitoring and alerting and isolating any assets that may have been damaged, said Dmitry Dontov, founder and CEO at Spin.AI, a software-as-a-service security company.

“If an attack is successful, your backups must be sound and data safely secured in multiple locations so you can automate data recovery quickly, ideally in minutes, not weeks,” he said.

9. Ensure Full Visibility Into Infrastructure, Data

You can’t protect what you can’t see, said Tim Potter, a principal in Deloitte Consulting LLP

Having a strong command over and full visibility into your technology infrastructure and data is critical to protecting it. This has always been true in on-premise technology operations and is increasingly important (yet equally more challenging) as organizations shift more workloads to cloud.

Potter told Techopedia: 

“Many security breaches originate from unmonitored systems and infrastructure. And if an incident occurs, it’s hard to confidently claim that it has been contained if you don’t have line of sight to all systems and data.”

Numerous vendor solutions are emerging and evolving to make gaining full visibility of your systems and data possible, Potter said. Organizations that haven’t made the necessary investments in this would be wise to do so.

10. Understand Your Security Responsibilities

Many organizations fall into the misconception that using a cloud provider shifts the burden of responsibility and diminishes their risk, assuming the provider is accountable for security configurations, backups, availability, and digital resiliency, according to Steve Tcherchian, chief information security officer at XYPRO.com, a cybersecurity solutions firm. He said:

“However, this is far from reality. To establish a strong cybersecurity foundation, it’s crucial for companies using the cloud to understand what data is being stored, the reasons behind it, and their specific security responsibilities. Only then can you put together a proper security configuration.”

Each cloud provider, such as AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud, has security best practices and documentation, he said. Familiarize yourself with these guides and implement their recommendations. For example, AWS cloud security best practices will help teams improve their AWS cloud security environments.

The Bottom Line

Following these cloud security best practices will help you strengthen your security posture and mitigate risks. Not doing so will leave you vulnerable to cyberattacks

Protect your cloud-based systems by using the insights of the top industry experts.  

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Linda Rosencrance
Technology journalist

Linda Rosencrance is a freelance writer and editor based in the Boston area, with expertise ranging from AI and machine learning to cybersecurity and DevOps. She has been covering IT topics since 1999 as an investigative reporter working for several newspapers in the Boston metro area. Before joining Techopedia in 2022, her articles have appeared in TechTarget, MSDynamicsworld.com, TechBeacon, IoT World Today, Computerworld, CIO magazine, and many other publications. She also writes white papers, case studies, ebooks, and blog posts for many corporate clients, interviewing key players, including CIOs, CISOs, and other C-suite execs.